Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Party Of The Year

"You're leaving already? But you only just got here! Aw, that's too bad, but I understand. Did you have a nice time? I'm glad. For sure next time we'll just hang out, you and me. Spend some quality time, okay? You take care of yourself, now. See you next year!"

Pac waves goodbye to January, closes the door and mutters under his breath. "Frigid, two-faced bitch." He didn't realize February was standing right there. February giggles.

Slightly embarrassed, Pac takes February's coat. "Sorry about that, but January gets on my nerves. She always insists on making a grand entrance, but once she's here she does nothing but bitch. I'm too fat, I'm so out of shape, I spent way too much money on December... She's all talk and no follow-through. Frankly, it's exhausting."

February nods with apparent understanding, easing Pac's guilt about getting caught being a catty host. He leads his guest to the bar while making small talk.

"So what'd she talk you into? Running a marathon? That cabbage soup diet? Yoga classes? P-90X?"

Rolling her eyes, February says, "What do you think?"

Pac pauses in mid-pour. "Not Lent again... Oh, Feb, seriously?" 

February shrugs in resignation. "It could be worse." She tilts her head over her shoulder toward March, who's sitting on the sofa obliviously chatting up June. "I could be that poor bastard."

Pac and February burst out laughing before realizing the entire year is looking at them.

"I've got a few weeks, " February slaps the bar top. "Make it a double."

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Fool's Grin

Click to see what makes Pac smile.
Last week I posted a photo of my brother and myself spending Christmas with our five-year-old nephew. I was surprised by the reaction on Twitter. "OMG! Finally a smile!"

What? I smile all the time. I'm basically a very happy person. What does twitter know anyway.

The following day we had dinner with a dear friend who was visiting from Switzerland. The photos were on Facebook before I even saw the dessert menu. The next day JB said, "I've noticed something about you. You never smile in photos when you're next to me."


Rather than reminding JB that not everything is about him, I showed him my recent twitter feedback in an attempt to prove the Internet in general shared his complaint.

It's been a little over a year since I got my braces off. You'd think that would be all the reason I need to smile automatically. But it's hard to unlearn the habits picked up during a lifetime of being self-conscious about my smile, without even bringing up the past three years of orthodonture.

I remember the day I got my braces off, I stopped at my local watering hole for dinner and a beer. "You look upset. What's wrong?"

"Nothing!" I assured the stranger sitting at the bar next to me who pulled me from my train of thought.

"What are you looking at??"
"Sorry, you just looked kind of pissed off." I know he was just making small talk, but it made me think. Is this the first impression I make to the world? Because nothing could be further from the truth. Angry is something I get on rare occasions, it's not something I am.

Right then I made a decision. Who knows how many people and opportunities I'm scaring off with my sour puss. I paid a lot for this smile, I'm going to start using it!

It didn't come naturally, but I made a conscious effort to smile as I finished my beer. As I walked home, I realized it was a beautiful evening and smiled as I decided to take a detour through the park. The park was busy and I made a point to smile to everyone I passed. And to my satisfaction, everyone smiled back.

This encouraged me to broaden my smile as I walked. And each person I passed, alone, in pairs or in groups, returned my smile. I realized I was learning a whole new way of facing the world. As I entered my building, I paused in the lobby to check out my new smile in the mirrored wall that faces the elevators.

My smile disappeared as I wondered, "How long has my zipper been down?"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Donut Stampede

I don't usually make New Year resolutions. I think because it's cliche and I tend to avoid, consciously or subconsciously, whatever the majority is doing. I've come to accept this as a personal idiosyncrasy that may or may not serve me any benefit in life.

This is why I usually take January off from the gym and wait until February to renew my commitment to health and exercise.

Another example: I always cringe when I see one of those "food in the break room" e-mails. You know, when some work group orders too much pizza for a lunch meeting and puts the surplus in the break room. Even if I'm hungry and my wallet is empty, you won't see me joining the stampeding herd to compete for a slice of cold, picked-over pizza.

Or when the boss picks up a couple dozen doughnuts on the way into the office and advertises their availability in an all-staff e-mail.

A friend of mine who manages the regional office of a well-known Federal agency tells me about how, when he does this, he can literally feel the building resonate only seconds after clicking "send".

I imagine him watching the standing ripples form in his coffee mug with an escalating sense of dread, like a scene from Jurassic Office Park.

I'm ready to accept it may just be me, but there's something about how the idea of free food seems to flip a switch in otherwise staid, well-compensated professionals that I find distasteful. Now I do love my doughnuts. And I enjoy saving money. But I find the tastiest doughnut is the one I buy myself.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I wouldn't say I have a Foursquare addiction. Not like some people I know. I call these people "Badgers", and they know who they are. Sure, I go through phases where I'm feeling competitive and start compulsively checking in every place I go. Well, not every place... just the ones with an AT&T signal.

I may not be mayor, but my layover check-ins at MSP
weren't a complete waste of time.
Aside from the obvious rewards of points and badges, what do I really get from all those check-ins? Well, sometimes I get discounts and special offers from the businesses I check into. But it's rarely ever anything worthwhile. While at the Minneapolis Airport I saw that the mayor gets a free hat. The mayor. Of the airport. Gets a hat.

Now that I think about it, I was picturing a tacky trucker's cap embroidered with the MSP Airport tagline: "Going Your Way". But what if it was a fedora? Or a sombrero? Or a hat in the shape of a Boeing 737, complete with wings that extend well beyond the territorial boundaries defined by the arm rests of my center seat? Now that would be worth it!

Sorry to dissapoint the frequent flyers, but odds are the mayor of any airport is going to be the guy waving flashlights on the tarmac, or the woman who drives the disabled and elderly to their gates while simultaneously solidifying her stranglehold on Cinnabon and Sbarro.

Granted, it's not a very manly shot,
but badgers can't be choosers
and I never look a gift dog in the mouth.

Then there's Starbuck's notorious foray into Foursquare offers where the mayor got a $1 discount on a Frappuccino. Hold me back.

Not all 4sq rewards suck, however. My favorite local barbecue joint gives me a free shot just for checking in.

And just this week I discovered another cool reward for all those check-ins. I get to see my geographical history. (Okay, it's more cool than actually rewarding.)

Thanks to Foursquare, I now leave a viscous digital trail like some sort of slimy cyber-snail.

After giving the mashup site Where Do You Go permission to access my 4sq data, it builds a heat map layer of my badgering exploits on top of Google Maps. Along with an oddly gratuitous No Mercy music video, the far more interesting attraction is a visualization of my physical trace in the world.

Even though I live in a major city, I'm a little surprised by how parochial I am. Seeing this makes me think I need to venture outside of my comfort zone more often and really go exploring. Not just my city, but the U.S.A. and the entire world.

With very little time off, all my traveling has been centered around family.
You can see where JB's family and my family are based.

Just one weekend trip to Brussels a year ago. My current job is keeping me from
visiting my friends in Europe. I wish this map could show every place I've ever been,
not just my Foursquare check-ins.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One Million

I wrote a few months ago about my fancy, high-tech pedometer (Step by Step). I purchased my FitBit early last April. JB usually gives me ojo when I spend money on gadgets, but in this case he liked the idea so much we got him his own FitBit a week later.

In general, the goal is to accumulate 10,000 steps each day. I find this goal lofty, while JB attains it regularly. I tease him that it's not a fair contest when his stubby little legs have to work twice as much to cover the same distance. It's like when you see someone jogging with their dachshund.

And I joke about what I call his "Mexican swagger". This is where, for every two steps his feet take, his hips take three.

I'm sure these are both factors, but the fact of the matter is that JB is simply more active than I am.

This is impressive considering how two years ago he was barely walking at all. In January 2010, JB was still slowly recovering slowly from a hip replacement performed the previous October. Too slowly, it turned out. At the time we had no idea he was in store another surgery the following March to revise the implant. But since then there's been no stopping him.

A lot of the difference between his activity level and mine has to do with the difference in the nature of our jobs. I sit at a desk all day while JB is on his feet, crossing airports and pacing the cabins of passenger jets.

I'm amazed how JB logs more steps going from Atlanta to San Francisco than I'll get all day. That's just during the flight, it doesn't counting the walking he does before and after. When the weather is nice and he has time during his layover to explore the city, there's no hope of ever catching up. Twice last week he logged over 22,000 daily steps.

This weekend I passed a milestone, of sorts. I hit one million steps wearing my FitBit. While that might sound impressive, it's really not. It works out to an average of about 3,500 daily steps. Now I'm sure this a little low considering I haven't worn my FitBit every single day. And I'm guessing there's been two or three lost weeks where my FitBit was misplaced, not including the time I washed my little buddy and had to buy a replacement.

I checked JB's stats. He's owned his FitBit a week less than I have, and is closing in on two million steps.

For 2012, it's obvious I need to increase my activity level.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pik. Water Pik.

It's time for "What did Pac get for Christmas?" It's actually weeks past time, but Pac's been real lazy.

Five Pounds

Okay, maybe six. No gift receipt with this one, of course.

A New Blender

Yes, I paid for this one myself. And I left it at my sister's house because that's where I'll get the most use out of it.

I was in my sister's kitchen blending up another batch of Christmas Eve Grasshoppers when we smelled something burning. It had to be something my sister was cooking... Grasshoppers don't burn. Then I heard a sickening CRUNCH and my sister's blender started smoking.

I still thank Baby Jesus that Walmart was open for last-minute shopping.

A Keychain

My sister gave me a keychain. I know what you're thinking, because I thought it too. But I was assured it's a special keychain. If I were to ever lose my keys, all I have to do is whistle and my keychain will beep and flash. "Here I am you idiot! Open your fucking eyes!"

You'd think this would be a perfect gift for someone with ADD. But in reality, no. I learned long ago that having a special place to keep such items ensures I'll know where they are when I need them.

So that's where I put my banana! Duh.
Sometimes I fear I'm losing my mind.
Contrast this with JB who seems to have no special place for anything. He has to remember where he randomly dropped his keys, wallet, phone, reading glasses, makeup, etc. I'm constantly helping him search for these things, asking questions like: "Where was the last place you remember applying concealer to your unfortunate tattoo?"

The magic keychain does work. It flashes and plays a series of tones whenever I whistle. Or talk. Or turn the TV on. And thanks to my knowledge of Morse Code, I know it's saying "S M H". What I haven't figured out is why.

I love my new keychain. I keep it in JB's makeup purse.

The Gift of Oral Hygiene

My gift from JB this year was a toothbrush. To be fair, it was on my list. Item number four, right under Karaoke Revolution for Wii, Glee: Volume Three.

I used to have a Sonicare which saw me through three years of braces while still getting straight A's from my dentist. Even my oral surgeon once complimented my gums, but I suspect he was hitting on me. (That and coming out of anesthesia curiously disheveled.)

Sadly, I had to say goodbye to my sonic friend about a year ago when its mighty, plaque-busting hum became a torpid, gum-teasing whine. I replaced it with a cheap Crest spin-brush from Target, but its hard to get excited about driving a Ford Focus when you're used to tooling around town in a Mercedes Benz. Or so I imagine. This lack of enthusiasm was reflected in my latest dental check-up. B-minus.

When I tore into the wrapping paper and saw the word "Sonicare", I squealed with joy. (And found my keys.) My glee turned to befuddlement when I tore further and saw this wasn't a toothbrush at all. I needn't have worried, I was to unwrap a new Sonicare toothbrush next. But this was something very different.

It seems my thoughtful little jumping bean also got me Sonicare's latest invention: The "Airfloss". It promises to make old-fashioned dental floss obsolete by shooting a hypersonic jet of aerosolized liquid between one's teeth, ripping out plaque and vaporizing Taco Bell particles while leaving the gums relatively intact.

Do not direct the spray under the
tongue, into the ear, nose, eye
or other sensitive areas."
Think: Waterpik with a license to kill.

Reading the instruction manual, which included a waiver of implied liability and copious bold-print warnings next to pictographs depicting people flossing their eyeballs out and hemorrhaging on their bathroom floors, I admit to being a bit intimidated by the thing.

After letting it fully charge and filling the reservoir with a tablespoon of mouthwash, I aimed it toward the palm of my hand and fired an apprehensive test shot.

Jesus Christ, that stings! Holy fuck! I'm still not sure if I saw stars or that thing shoots laser beams too. I carefully put the Airfloss back in its box and tucked the Bed, Bath & Beyond gift receipt in my wallet.

But the promise of floss-less flossing is powerful and compelling. After studying the manual once more, I poured myself a drink, unboxed the monstrosity and slowly worked up the nerve to raise the barrel to my mouth. I closed my eyes and pulled the trigger...

What a rush! I'm so glad I gave my new Airfloss a chance. I'm now "flossing" in thirty seconds flat! I can't wait for my next check-up so I can say, "In your face, Dr. Domansky!"

Sure, I take an occasional shot to the tongue which brings me to tears, and just yesterday a careless misfire grazed my left nipple. But I have yet to blind or sterilize myself.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Grasshoppers, Plural

On my long list of New Year resolutions, I'm positive I remember seeing something about my blog. It was either "blog more" or "blog less". But it was there, I'm sure of it.

Maybe it was "move blog to Wordpress" or "shut down blog then start new blog with radically different theme and writing style". I just don't remember specifically.

I would refer to my resolution list, but it never really made it from the concept phase onto paper. To be honest, I spent the better part of the past month hopped up on rum balls.

But as the sugary fog slowly lifts and my head starts to clear, I'm starting to remember what's what in my life.

I thought the only way I could top Christmas 2010 was to spend Christmas 2011 at the North Pole. It turns out I only had to go halfway there and spend Christmas with my five-year-old nephew in Wisconsin. Nothing puts the holiday in perspective like reliving the pure excitement and joy of a child on Christmas Eve.

And I learned nothing helps one tolerate the pure excitement and joy of a child on Christmas Eve like a blender full of Grasshoppers.